Updated Aug 18, 2022 2:32 PM
Bow sights today are more advanced and feature laden than at any other time in history. I remember in the early 1990s when the big advancement was the change from metal pins with painted balls on the tips to pins that had colored plastic cylinders at the ends. Those were game changers back in the day.
Today’s bowhunters can choose sights with fixed or movable pins, sights with digital sight tapes, sights with built-in rangefinders and electronic readout screens, and on and on. The options are nearly limitless.
What hasn’t changed, however, is the fact that a good sight won’t make up for lack of shooting skill or a lousy bow tune. A bow sight is a tool that functions best in the hands of a skilled worker. The better you become at archery, the better a good sight can help you move closer to perfection.
But not everyone is at the same point on that road to perfection, and so different people have different needs and capabilities. Not everyone needs the most expensive, most advanced bow sight. And that’s where the market has responded. Wherever you are in your archery journey, there’s a best bow sight for you.
Why It Made the Cut
This is a tournament-grade bow sight made for bowhunters. Every component on this sight is top end. It’s made as if the engineers at Axcel were asked to incorporate into the sight everything a bowhunter could want, and make it bomb-proof. The micro-adjust system for moving pins is arguably the slickest in the industry.
- Five fixed pins mounted on a movable vertical post
- Two sight tape indicators can be set to mark the top and bottom pins
- Movable rheostat
- Long lengths of high-quality fiber optic
- Adjustable on both second and third axes
- Offers the best of both worlds – fixed pins that can be adjusted on the fly
- Built like a tank
- Super bright pins that can be quieted in bright sun
- Comes with metal sight tapes
- Can be hard to find due to high demand
The Axcel Landslyde five-pin sight is the ultimate bowhunting sight. It offers the quick aiming of five-fixed-pins sight, and the adjustable precision of a sliding, single-pin sight. So if you’ve got your five pins set at 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 yards, you’ve got fixed aiming references if your target buck comes racing in to 20 yards, but then scoots out to 35 after you’ve come to full draw, but before you could shoot. Stay at full draw, and simply move to the gap between your 30- and 40-yard pins.
On the other hand, if you’ve got the time, you can dial your sight to the exact yardage that buck is standing at so you can paste a pin to the spot you want to hit. No gap shooting if you don’t want to gap shoot.
The micro-adjust system for moving each individual pin is ingenious and it takes minutes to sight in your bow. Each pin is held in place by a locking screw. Underneath the pin stack is a dial. You unlock one pin and turn the dial, and then only that pin moves up or down. You are able to make tiny adjustments with the dial, so you can get each pin in exactly the right place. Once a pin is set, tighten the locking screw, and it won’t budge.
When you get the Landslyde in your hands, it’s easy to understand why it’s fairly expensive. You can feel the quality. The pins are bladed, so they won’t bend. The fiber optic is incredibly bright in even the dimmest light. And if it happens to be super bright outside and your pin is starbursting, you can slide the rheostat to cover up some of the fiber, which dulls the pin and eliminates the starburst.
Every sight comes with a good selection of metal and coated paper sight tapes. Odds are, one will work for your setup. If you can get a metal tape to work, you don’t ever have to worry about it getting wet or tearing. With the dual indicators, you can set the top arrow to mark your top pin and the bottom to match your bottom pin. That way, you can use your top pin as a single pin sight from 0-60 yards, and your bottom pin for aiming at anything beyond 60 yards.
We’ve chosen the five-pin sight as the best, but Axcel offers the Landslyde in three-pin and single-pin configurations. You choose what you prefer. You can also choose between versions where the sight bar mounts directly to the riser, or which slides through a mounting block so you can easily adjust how close to or far from the riser the scope sits.
Why It Made the Cut
The HHA Tetra Ryz sets the standard for single-pin bow sights in terms of quality and operation. It’s built like a tank and is simple both to set up and to use.
- Big ergonomic wheel for adjusting the pin
- Includes a second, lower aiming reference useful for long-distance shooting and/or if an animal moves farther away after you come to full draw
- Dual indicators on sight wheel match each aiming reference
- Solid gear system with zero slop for precision dialing
- Rheostat scope cover allows for adjusting pin brightness
- Comes in direct mount or removable dovetail versions
- Can set the aiming pin fast and easy
- Second-axis adjustment screws are separate from the scope mounting screws
- Lots of fiber to light up the pin at prime time
- Aiming references are different colors
- Rheostat is not the simplest to adjust
- Paper sight tapes
The HHA Tetra Ryz is an adjustable single-pin sight that includes a second aiming dot at the base of the pin. That second aiming dot allows for extended range shooting. Two markers on the adjustable sight wheel are perfectly spaced to indicate the distance each aiming reference is set at as the sight is adjusted up and down.
The Ryz carries over all the features that made the 2021 version of the HHA Tetra so popular among bowhunters. It’s got a big wheel that turns easily and quickly to set the pin to the desired shooting distance. Turning the wheel drives the scope up and down on a vertical bar. Precision gears in the wheel mechanism mean there’s no wiggle as you zero in on the desired distance. When the sight-tape indicator hits the number you want, it sticks there.
Quality fiber optic that wraps several times around the scope housing has ample surface area to capture maximum light so hunters can see the two aiming dots in low light when hunting often is best. A movable rheostat allows the hunter to control the light transmitted by the fiber in bright light.
Included with each sight are more than 50 sight tapes, which should mean there’s a tape for just about any hunter’s setup. The tapes are simply to apply to the wheel, and they’re easy to read.
Like all HHA Tetras, the Ryz allows for leveling the sight on both the second and third axes. Versions are available where the sight bar can be mounted directly to the riser, or you can mount a block to the riser, which receives a dovetail bar that can be set at different distances from the riser, and can be removed during transport in a case.
Why It Made the Cut
The Garmin Xero A1i Pro is a bow sight and rangefinder built into a single unit. It’s accurate, easy to use, and can be customized to suit a variety of preferences.
- Operated by the touch of a button attached to the bow’s grip
- Can be set to account for multiple arrow setups
- Choose red or green aiming dot
- Choose single dot that appears at a ranged distance, or a stack of preset dots similar to a fixed-pin sight
- Micro-adjust windage, elevation, and scope pitch
- Quick disconnect cord so sight can be removed from the bow for travel
- Incorporates rangefinding and aiming into one action
- With the push of a button, puts an aiming dot precisely on your target
- Can be preset to account for a light arrow and a heavy arrow
- Instructions for setup are built into the menu
- Can be intimidating to bowhunters not comfortable with advanced technology
- Very expensive
The Garmin Xero A1i Pro is a bow sight that also functions as a rangefinder. It can be set to that when you press a button attached to the front of the bow grip to range a target, the distance will appear in a display, and an illuminated dot will appear on a screen in the scope housing at the exact spot where it would need to be to aim dead-on at that target. Or it can be set with a series of fixed aiming references set at 10-yard intervals and pressing the rangefinding button simply displays the distance to the target.
The Pro is the newest version of the Xero A1i, and includes micro-adjust capabilities for elevation, windage, and the pitch and yaw of the scope. The pitch and yaw ensure the display screen in the scope is perfectly flat to the user’s eye. That’s key for accurate rangefinding.
Setup for the Xero A1i Pro does take several steps, but you’re guided through those steps by on-screen directions. Follow those directions, and setup is not difficult.
The customization this sight affords is unparalleled. Besides choosing between single-pin or multi-pin aiming, you can choose the pin colors, set up an on-screen digital level if you want, and set the sight to account for normal or extended-range shooting, among other options. You can even set the sight to adjust for different arrow profiles.
You can read the full Garmin Xero A1i Pro review here.
Why It Made the Cut
The RL4 is an inexpensive – but not cheap – four-pin, aluminum bow sight. Every part of this sight that you’d expect to be made of metal is made of metal. It has many of the features that you look for in a good, quality sight, yet it costs less than $75.
- Tool-free locking adjustment knobs
- Precision click windage and elevation adjustments
- Four fixed pins with lots of fiber
- Multiple mounting points
- Built-in level
- Costs under $75
- Solid construction
- It can be leveled on the second and third axes
- Light included
- Pins aren’t the brightest in low light
- Pins are thin wire, which could bend if a stick gets inside the scope
The Redline RL4 is brand new for 2022, and includes a lot of features bowhunters look for in a high-end sight, but it costs less than $75. It’s a four-pin sight with micro-adjust click dials for windage and elevation. And those adjustment dials can be locked and unlocked without using any tools. Hand-tighten knobs keep them secure.
The pins are made of thin wire, but keep debris out of the scope and you’ll be fine. Each pin has a good amount of fiber that’s all stored in a clear plastic case mounted to the top of the scope for optimum light gathering, while the fiber is also protected. In normal lighting situations, the pins glow nicely.
This sight can be adjusted to level it on the second and third axes, which is unusual for a sight in this price range. So bowhunters can rest assured that when the bubble is in the middle of the level, the sight truly is level.
Four sets of pre-drilled holes in the sight arm allow for attaching the sight to the bow, so the scope sits at different distances from the riser. This allows some customization in getting the sight picture through the peep the way you want it.
Table of Contents
Best Lightweight Sight: CBE CX-5
Why It Made the Cut
The CBE CX-5 is a high-end, lightweight sight that weighs in at just 9 ounces. There are sights that weigh a little bit less than the CX-5, but they don’t have all the features of the CX-5. This sight has tons of fiberoptic for each pin, it’s adjustable on the second and third axes, it comes with a removable blue light, and the scope is micro-adjustable for windage and elevation. And again, it only weighs 9 ounces.
- High modulus carbon bar is ultralight but ultra strong
- Five bladed pins
- Dovetail mount so you can easily move the scope in and out from the riser
- 12 inches of fiber per pin, and the fiber is protected in a clear plastic case on top of the scope
- Lockable, micro-adjust towers for windage and elevation
- Very light and still feature loaded
- Pins are super bright and super strong
- Can be leveled on the second and third axes
- Comes with interchangeable, fluorescent scope rings—green, red, yellow and grey
- Five pins, but only two colors—red and green
The CBE CX-5 is built for the hunter concerned about overall bow weight, but who still wants a sight that has all the features of the most advanced sights. Weighing just 9 ounces, the CX-5 is a five-pin sight that has a foot of fiber for each pin, a built-in level, micro-adjust drive systems for windage and elevation, and is adjustable on the second and third axes.
The sight features a 3-inch dovetail bar with four locking positions for moving the sight in and out of the mounting block that’s attached to the bow. This allows the user to fine-tune the scope distance from the riser to get the best sight picture through the peep.
On top of the scope, there’s a clear plastic case that houses all the pin fiber. The clear plastic allows light to get to each fiber strand, so they can light up the pin ends, but it also protects the fiber from tree branches, brush, and other outside elements which could break the fiber. Included with the sight is a blue light that attaches to the fiber case, in case artificial light is needed in low-light conditions.
Despite weighing only 9 ounces, the CX-5 is built strong. The carbon bar that cuts weight in super stiff and will not bend. To get the bladed pins to bend, something catastrophic would have to happen. The usual stick running through the scope isn’t going to affect these pins. CBE cut weight from a high-end bow sight, without stripping features or sacrificing strength.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Bow Sight
Bow sight pins come in a variety of sizes, but the three most common you’ll encounter are .010, .019, and .029 inches. The smaller the pin, the more precise you can be in aiming. That can be important, especially if you plan to shoot long range. A .029 pin is nice for aiming at a deer 15 yards away, but back up to 70, and that pin is likely to cover half the animal’s body.
However, the smaller the pin, the less light it is able to transmit. So if you’re a tree stand hunter under a heavy canopy, a .010 pin will go dark as prime time arrives in the evening substantially before a .029 pin. As you get older, those smaller pins go dark even sooner.
Think about your age, your eyesight and what you need and want to see while aiming when you choose the size of the pins in your sight.
Fiber Length and Exposure
When you look through a sight and see glowing red, orange, green and/or yellow dots at the sight pin heads, the glowing is thanks to fiber optic. The fiber optic used in bowsights is a thin strand of plastic. Anywhere that fiber is exposed to light, it is gathering light. Any light it gathers is transmitted to the end of the pin, which is what bowhunters use to aim.
The longer the fiber is, and the more that fiber is exposed to light, the more light it can gather. The shorter it is, the less light it will gather. So in low light – prime hunting time – a pin with lots of exposed fiber will be more visible that a pin with a shorter fiber, or fiber that has more length covered.
As bowhunters, we chase game over uneven terrain, whether we’re aiming down from a tree stand or shooting across the side of a mountain. If your sight isn’t level to the Earth, then you can have problems with arrows hitting left or right of where you want them.
So getting a sight that allows you to level it on the second and third axes ensures that when you check your sight to get the bubble in the scope level into the middle while aiming, you know the sight truly is level. Leveling on the second axis involves pivoting the scope head up and down while the base is pinned to the sight bar. Leveling on the third axis involves pivoting the scope head like it’s a swinging door moving toward or away from the sight bar.
Not all sights include these leveling features. That’s ok, so long as you understand what you’re sacrificing. When you aim down from a tree stand, for example, you will have no way of knowing if the sight’s third axis is level, and so your arrow might impact left or right of where you’re aiming if it’s not level.
If you want to be confident the sight is true when you take aim, choose one that allows you the level the second and third axes.
Q: Should I go With Fixed pins or a Single Movable Pin?
The answer really is up to you. With a fixed-pin sight, you always have an aiming reference for the entire range of your preset pins. If you’ve got five pins, you can have aiming references preset for 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 yards. If your target animal moves after you come to full draw, just pick another pin for aiming. But if your target isn’t exactly at one of those distance, then you have to know how to gap shoot – aim by holding a pin high or low. With a single pin, you can set the pin to the exact distance of any target. But if an animal moves closer or farther after you set your pin, you have to reset it, which could cause you to miss a shot opportunity. It’s up to you to decide which setup you prefer.
How Much Does a Sight Cost?
Bow sights vary widely in cost from under $50 to over $1,000. The more expensive sights are going to have more and better features and capabilities. Take the Garmin Xero A1i. That’s got more technology built into it than many home appliances. You can find good quality sights really at any price point from $50-$1,500. Figure out what you want the sight to do and then shop accordingly. If you want to spend no more than $100, you can find a good sight in that range. Just understand it won’t be as bulletproof or feature laden as a $600 sight.
Do I want a Direct-Mount Sight or a Dovetail?
A sight is fastened to a bow essentially in one of two ways. Either the sight arm is mounted by screws directly to the bow, or a block is mounted to the bow, and the sight arm slides in and out of that block.
With a slide-in, slide-out sight, you can easily move the sight to adjust your sight picture through your peep. That is, you can adjust the sight so that when you look through the peep, the scope perfectly fills the peep. You get the scope ring to match the peep ring to know you are aligned.
Also, slide-in, slide-out sights can easily be removed for transport in a case. Turn a knob, and the sight slides out.
Direct-mount sights may or may not have multiple mounting positions to try to match the scope to your peep. If one doesn’t, then what you see through the peep is what you get. Your only option then is to change peep sizes.
However, you never have to worry about a direct-mount sight sliding because the holding knob came loose. The screws hold it in place. Period. They also tend to be quieter due to the direct connection.
Choosing the right sight for your bow is a critical piece to the accuracy puzzle. It is the last thing you’re looking through before an arrow is released, and often is the difference between filling a tag and going home with a sad story. But a sight can’t make up for poor shooting form or a bad bow tune. Work on those before diving into a high-end sight. When you get your shot and your tuning right, then one of the best bow sights can be just what’s needed to make you the most accurate bowhunter possible.